Only once since the beginning of August had any poll showed Trump leading by less than double digits, and that poll had him up seven. Today’s four-point lead over Carson is the slimmest advantage he’s had since Trumpmania started to break big six weeks ago. In fact, with a six-point margin of error in the new NYT/CBS survey, it’s possible that Carson has already passed Trump for the lead nationally. How’s that for a pre-debate aperitif?

Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, whom many thought would be the last two men standing for the nomination, are at eight percent. Combined.

cbs

Mike Huckabee has three times the support that Walker does. For shame, conservative America.

Toss in Carly Fiorina’s four percent and you’ve got 54 percent combined for the three amateur/outsider candidates versus 37 percent for the field’s many professional pols, with another nine percent who don’t know yet. Proof that we’re destined for an outside-the-box nominee this year? Don’t be so sure: Per the Times, fully 63 percent of those polled say they haven’t made up their mind yet about whom to support. Even within the phenomenon of Trumpmania, 46 percent of Trump backers say it’s possible they could eventually switch to another candidate, meaning that only 14 percent or so of Republicans polled here are firmly committed to the Donald. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll showed Carson easily winning the largest share of Trump’s voters as their second choice, so if he has a good debate tomorrow and Trump gets hit hard, you may see him and Trump flip as 1-2 in next week’s surveys.

And what if Trump hangs on all the way into next summer and wins the nomination? Bill Kristol, doubtless speaking for many in the commentariat, tells CNN Money that he’s prepared to go third-party:

“I doubt I’d support Donald. I doubt I’d support the Democrat,” Kristol told CNNMoney in an email. “I think I’d support getting someone good on the ballot as a third party candidate.”…

So who would Kristol like to see on the ballot?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and freshman Senator Tom Cotton, Kristol said, “would be an excellent independent ticket!”

I guess that party loyalty pledge that Trump signed only runs one way. Kristol raises an intriguing possibility, though. Given the angst about Trump among conservative ideologues, is it possible that a prominent conservative would jump in and run as an independent if Trump is the GOP’s nominee? It’s hard to see how, say, a Jim DeMint could be convinced to throw the election to Hillary Clinton, especially with Trump pounding the table about stronger borders as his signature issue, but maybe Trump will move so far towards the center that conservatives will feel no choice but to offer an alternative. If we’re going to elect a fan of big government, might as well stick with the Democrat and keep the GOP’s brand free from the association, right? Besides, Rick Perry’s critique of “Trumpism” may resonate with enough righties that they conclude it’s the lesser of two evils to keep the presidency in the hands of a mainstream Democrat than as aspiring strongman who’d do God knows what with the office. Again, though, who are you going to convince to run? Who’s a big enough name to pull enough votes from Trump to guarantee his defeat and has enough dough in the bank to pay for the sort of massive operation that’s required? I got nothing.